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Fear, tears and joy on my final two Cuillin Munros

Written by Fiona

October 06 2020

cuillin munros

I am not a fan of heights and exposed drops. I believe my ability to cope with some of Scotland’s ridge walks has improved over the years but I still have a huge fear. I try very hard to rationalise the anxiety but sometimes I am paralysed with fear.

To finish a round of Munros, I needed to reach all 11 summits on the Cuillin Ridge. I had bagged three of the summits, including the most revered, the In Pinn, a couple of years ago and I was not keen to return.

This summer, a window of good weather and some time off work left me with no excuses. Hubby G wanted us to return to the ridge and he had a plan.

On day one, we did a half traverse of the ridge and ticked off six more Cuillin Munros. I was left drained both physically and mentally.

We had a day’s rest but with the weather still on a high, it made sense to try to bag the final two.

This almost didn’t happen.

A meltdown before Sgurr Dubh Mor

My pent up anxiety and concerns erupted on the bealach between the final two Cuillin Munros, Sgurr Dubh Mor and Sgurr Nan Eag.

I had a meltdown and told G I didn’t care if I never finished the Munros. I just didn’t want to put myself through more trauma to reach the summits of these Munros. I said I wanted to go back to the start and never return.

But G knows me well. He let me rant and cry for a while – and then he watched as I gathered myself together and set off determined to get “these bloody summits done”.

There are many people who relish being in such a beautiful, high and exposed location. I do not understand this. I can see the beauty but the steeps droops and slopes are my over-riding concern. I think at almost every turn I will slip and die, or be horribly injured. Even when roped I find it hard not to think of the worst outcome.

That penultimate Cuillin Munro, Sgurr Dubh Mor, was one of my worst experiences. I was so emotional. I could feel the anxiety building and I whimpered, moaned and hyperventilated all the way to the summit.

I have no idea how G kept his cool and patience but I am grateful he did. I repeated over and over to myself: “You have just got to do this. Just keep going. Don’t look back.”

He guided me with amazing calm and finally we reached the summit. You will see my face half way through the video as I sat on that summit and then you might understand what I have to go through mentally to reach these summits.

The descent was not as bad as I imagined it would be and as we returned to the bealach we met Skye guide Adrain Trendall of All Things Cuillin. He took a photo of us that belies the emotional turmoil inside my head.

Final ascent: Sgurr Nan Eag

The final Cuillin Munro, Sgurr Nan Eag, was mild in comparison to many others. Sadly, I was beyond the point of being rational. I kept asking G why I was on the ridge, what was the point, when could we get off?

It was only as I came towards the summit that I could feel any sense of joy. I had done it. I had finally finished the ridge Munros that I never, ever thought I would be able to do.

There is a touching moment in the video where G hugs me to him. I have silenced our private words to each other but much of it was G telling me how proud he is of me. He said he had never seen someone so determined to overcome an innate fear and he felt hugely proud to have been able to help me to do so. I am saying, “I never want to be here again.”

I don’t apologise for sounding soppy when I say I could not have done the Cuillin Munros without my husband and I will always be thankful. I guess I didn’t have to do any of the Cuillin Munros but I am keen to finish a round of Munros and this was the final big obstacle.

Video guide to my final Cuillin Munros:

This left me with 11 Munros to go to finish a round.

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